We're finally almost at the official one month countdown till the Major League Soccer season (hopefully) kicks off on March 6 barring a work stoppage with Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations still underway between the MLS and MLS Players' Union. But we're going to pretend that the CBA didn't expire on Saturday and that everything is fine, because Fantasy MLS doesn't have time for nonsense. We will, hopefully, have a lot of MLS and Fantasy MLS to look forward to next month.
We'll dive into the first few weeks of the season, maximizing clean sheets, and look at smart goalie rotations that can help maximize efficiency around you FMLS team.
The first five weeks of the season can be make-or-break for a lot of FMLS managers. Not only will it set the standard for many FMLS leagues and players, it's also representative of a good unit of measurement for how you should approach the entire season - Five game stretches.
In the first five weeks of the MLS season, no team is unfortunate enough to have a double game week (equally as unfortunate for FMLS managers who don't get a chance at double points). Only four teams - FC Dallas, the Houston Dynamo, the Portland Timbers, and the Seattle Sounders - get to open the season with back-to-back home games. The Colorado Rapids, Montreal Impact, and DC United are all met with quick byes in game week two.
All of these above qualities of the first two weeks are factors that can easily be taken into account in order to maximize your efficiency in FMLS. The Sounders are always a threat at home at CenturyLink Field, so maybe you're confident they can get an early clean sheet against the Revolution before most likely bashing the Earthquakes in week two. Maybe you like DC United's odds at home against the Impact before their bye, and you want to switch out a United forward you picked up at the start of the season to capitalize on David Villa's first game in New York at home to New England in week two.
All of these decisions like the above example are intrinsic on you consulting the schedule to come up with a plan on when you will switch players out to maximize efficiency. Remember, you only get two transfers every week with the exception of the possibility of banking one of your transfers in week one to afford three in week two or using your one-time wild card. You want to rely on the players you pick along with you believing that their schedule allows for a good chance at maximum points. Minimizing transfers in/out so you can use them for the big changes you need to make to your roster is an important angle of FMLS.
The Clean Defensive Game
During the first five weeks, defenders are your friends. They are the great purveyors of clean sheets, which total for a significant amount of points during the start of the season. A clean sheet paired with a strong defensive bonus (maybe even a captaincy) can be the source of most of your points on the season.
Last season's top 10 in clean sheets. Colorado defender Drew Moor was able to tie for fifth in the category despite missing the final ten games of the season with a torn ACL.
Take a look at last season's top producers in the clean sheet category. All of these players (with the exception of Colorado's Drew Moor due to a ACL injury) appeared in the top ten in defender minutes played and point production categories. Both Horst and Sarkodie put up two clean sheets in the first two weeks while Gargan, Borchers, and Moor added one. The difference between clean sheet/no clean sheet doesn't have to be analyzed too in depth, because the points output with or without one speaks for itself. Add to that guys like David Horst and Sean Franklin chipping in the occasional goal and assist on top of their defensive output can have big benefits.
Home/Away from Home
We mentioned before the value of clean sheets and home games. Maximizing both is always key, because it's pretty clear that a team has an advantage while playing in front of its fans.
Thanks to MLS Fantasy Boss Dashdar, it's now possible to easily make it so that you never have to deal with an away day for your keeper.
Credit: Dashdar of MLS Fantasy Boss (mlsfantasyboss.com)
Say, for example, you think that Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimaldo is going to have a big season. Knowing that teams have a better chance of winning at home, you want to pick a keeper that will complement Rimando nicely while also having a home game when RSL is on the road. Look at the chart, find RSL on the left, then move right across the chart and find a team in blue that has a high number of consecutive games where when combined with RSL will give you a large streak of games where you will have a keeper eligible of playing at home.
You see many below average streaks around 12 games, but you can see that Orlando City, when paired with RSL, have a possible rotation of 17 games in a row where you can have a keeper playing at home in the different game weeks. You can fiddle around and find a combination that will make sure you have maximum possible output and utmost confidence in your keepers.
Basing your FMLS decisions on five-game increments can help keep your thoughts guided while also taking into account the nature of game. Players will be injured, and you don't want be left with an expensive player on the bench with no transfers to use to replace him.
Find comfortable schedules that you're confident in and plan when you will swap out players what times in order to maximize efficiency. Clean sheets are your friend on the back end, so try to find mismatches and hope for the opposing offence to put up a scoreless game. Home teams have the advantage, so make it yours and take every chance you at creating extra points for your FMLS team.